Features – Movie Piracy Frenzy

Published on http://www.newshit.com.au on 31//07/2009.

Movie piracy is a multi-million dollar industry. Piracy can occur in many different forms, such as taking filming devices, including camera phones and video cameras into the cinema, recording the movie or burning a DVD onto your computer using specialised software.

In 2005, 47 million pirated DVDs were sold in Australia, in comparison to 52 million legitimate movies. There were also about 11 million copies of pirated movies downloaded in that same year.

According to studies conducted by a US lobby group, 20% of Australia’s Internet users have downloaded a movie illegally. The studies also show that this percentage of people are also buying fewer films than they have in the past. Australia is ranked 3rd in the world for the number people who have reduced their buying of films, with 17% admitting to reduced film purchasing. As a result, over 50,000 peoples’ jobs are being compromised.

Many of the people who download the movies have no qualms about what they are doing. They don’t actually realise that what they are doing is harming the film industry and video stores. As more people illegally obtain movies, more video stores are closing down, such as the the two I used to work at.

Several countries are working together to crackdown on music and movie pirates, with the 2nd World Copyright Summit, which occurred in June this year. At this summit, US Senator Orin Hatch suggested the idea of a “three strikes policy” for repeat copyright offenders.

He further suggested that there should be laws for illegal downloads of music and film. On the first strike: the person should receive an email warning; the second strike: a letter. And after the third strike, their internet account should be blocked for a year. However, for this to be successful Internet Service Providers would have to closely work with the copyright community.

Recent cases of piracy in Australia include:

* A 26-year-old Sydney man was charged in February for copyright offences after he allegedly filmed new release movies with a video camera at a Western-Sydney drive-in. He would then upload the movies onto the internet for others to download illegally. He was accused of filming movies over a period of 5 months including Beverley Hills Chihuahua, Yes Man, Marley and Me and He’s Just Not That Into You.

* In 2007, Australia was the first country to have The Simpsons Movie pirated. It is believed a 21-year-old Sydney man had filmed the movie on his camera phone and then uploaded it onto the Internet. He was charged with copyright theft and could face up to 5 years jail. With close co-operation between the Australian Federal Police, AFACT and 20th Century Fox, the offending copy of the film was removed from the internet within 72 hours of its posting.

So how were they caught? Well, The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) uses digital watermarking technology, which is different at each cinema, to allow investigators to identify the cinema in which the films were illegally recorded.

Maximum penalties for copyright infringements are: a $60,500 fine and/or five years imprisonment per offence.

In response to the increase of pirated movies coming from Australia, movie studios started to provide night-vision goggles and training to cinema ushers on how to spot people illegally taping films using video cameras and mobile phones.

Greg Tiverton, lead author and director of the Centre for Global Risk and Security at RAND, says that if you buy pirated DVDs, there is a good chance that at least part of the money will go to organised crime, in which the proceeds will most likely fund more-dangerous criminal activities, possibly even terrorism.

There are many organised crime gangs getting into the business of the movie piracy trade as the cost to reproduce DVDs is continually lowered. The RAND corporation suggests that money made is increasingly used to fund other illegal activities such as drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, and human smuggling.

A possible solution is to increase fines and jail time; such an increase may well help in reducing piracy.

But what will happen to Australian film industry if the pirating of movies continues? The Worst-case scenario is that the industry could descend into debt. If this were to occur, all the actors, directors, writers, producers, and crew who work on Australian films would end up unemployed.

Next time you purchase a pirated film or download films illegally from the Internet, maybe you should think about whom you might be harming with the transaction. It might mean that you get to see a movie for a cheaper price, but at the same time, you are also accelerating the demise of Australia’s struggling home-grown film industry (Approximately 35 films are produced each year in Australia). Imagine that – with no more Australian films to watch, people would be left with no alternatives but awful American Parody Movie films…

Scary, isn’t it!

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